Q&A: Brazil legend Oscar Schmidt hails ‘tough’ Michael Jordan who once injured two of his teammates
If only camera phones had existed in 1992, Oscar Schmidt would have one heck of a selfie on his mantlepiece.
Despite being regarded as the most prolific points scorer of all time, with almost 50,000 points, Schmidt was so in awe of his opponents that day, that he wanted to take his camera to use from the bench.
In the end, the five-time Olympian decided against using his cumbersome equipment at the game, for fear he would annoy teammates or his coach at an important moment.
In the new Olympic Channel series Dream Team 1992 Revisited, we are replaying all the USA Basketball matches, in full, from their Olympic triumph at Barcelona ‘92.
One match is replayed every week in the same order they were played at the Games, featuring new commentary from Rob Perez and Tom Kirkland and available for free and without subscription.
To celebrate the next episode on May 7 - where the United States take on Brazil - Tom caught up with Schmidt to relive some of his memories from that day.
They also chat about why he never played in the NBA despite being drafted, his encounters with Kobe Bryant and his father, and also take in other hilarious anecdotes from Schmidt’s illustrious career.
For more information on the Dream Team '92, and to see a full broadcast schedule of their matches on Olympic Channel, click here.
Tom Kirkland: When you were in the zone and the shots were falling, and you know that nobody can really guard you, what are you thinking?
Oscar Schmidt: First of all, I practise a lot. That's why I shot good. I'd shoot 500 3-pointers each practice, so it's more than a thousand a day. And then one day I thought, it's so easy. Let me make it a little more difficult. After shooting the five hundred. I go home just when I score 20 in a row without missing. Generally I got it in the first try and at the most the third try. But one day I spent two hours to make the 20, and then I kept shooting to see how far I could go. I shot 90 in a row with a teammate passing me the ball. My team was standing on the floor in silence. That's why I scored a lot.
TK: So when you're scoring 55 points in an Olympic match, or 46 in the Pan-Am Games gold medal match against the US, what is that feeling like in your mind?
OS: The opposition must put two guards on me. At least two! No, I suffered a lot when they guarded me with one person, and four in the zone, but I found a way around it. I'm not just a shooter... I was also a rebounder. My idol was Larry Bird. I know that I wasn't, but my whole career I practised to be the best.
The Best of the Dream Team | Barcelona 1992
The Best of the Dream Team | Barcelona 1992The best moments from an unforgettable campaign as USA's all star 'Dream Team' journeyed to a memorable gold medal.
TK: Every Thursday we replay one of the Dream Team games from Barcelona. We did their opener, Angola, then Croatia, then Germany. Next is Brazil. What do you remember about the Dream Team.
OS: I remember I tried to bring my camera to the bench! But I didn't in the end because people would get mad with me. I thought, we want to win the game. The guy who guarded me had a hard time. We went well until maybe 15 minutes from the end. But when they start to run it's difficult for any team to defend. I played against my idol Larry Bird and I had a great time playing against him.
TK: As the game developed did they talk to you, or were you did you have any conversations with the USA players? I don't think Magic Johnson played in the game. He was still hurt. But was there any talking?
OS: Yes we're all kids. Everybody who plays basketball is a kid. So when we play against each other, the great players respect the other great players of the other team. That's normal. After the game we laughed a lot. Michael Jordan was a very tough player. I played an exhibition game with him in Trieste, it was the Americas and Italy against another team. And then he played my team. Half the game he played for us, and half the game for the other team. That was a beautiful game. When he attacked on the court he hurt two of our players!
After I quit basketball, I went to the Beijing Olympic Games and I went to the practice of the new Dream Team. I met Kobe Bryant for the first time there. I played against his father every year, and our team was much better than his team - and we would kick his ass every year. It was very beautiful that a guy like Kobe Bryant liked me.
TK: Who are your favourite players from across the two generations that Michael and Kobe played in?
OS: I put five players as the best. There's Michael Jordan obviously, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, then the best of them all... The guy who doesn't jump, doesn't run, and played better than anyone else. Larry Bird. These five players wouldn't lose to anyone if they played together.
TK: You said that the 1987 Pan American Games gold medal match was your most memorable because it was in the US, you beat the US, and you scored forty six, what happened after that match?
OS: Because of that game I was drafted to the NBA. They offered me everything and I refused immediately, if I played one one game in the NBA, I couldn't play again with my national team.
TK: The Dream Team changed all that, because Barislav Stankovic pushed for NBA players to play internationally, so that other NBA stars could play in the Olympics. Why didn't you go and play there?
The reason I never played in the NBA, was that as I started to get older, you must run fast every game and I just said no. The change in rules came too late in my career. Before that the most important thing for me was playing in for my country, so I refused all NBA advances. I have no regrets and I would still do the same thing now if the rules were still the same.
TK: Finally, I'm wondering about your battle with your brain tumour and what you had to go through. How tough difficult was that compared to all the things that you've had to go through in your life?
OS: Maybe it was the best battle. I didn't stay home crying and it made my life better than before. Everything that I did a little, I started to do a lot. Now I do speeches in Brazil. I still do chemotherapy for it today and I've had two brain surgeries. Life was beautiful. I went to the Pope. I'm a Catholic and when he put the hand on my head, I was cured.